The “Why” Part of the Story*
When presenting as a male I can be quite introverted**, you know the quiet, shy, and socially awkward type. Which I think comes from not feeling 100% comfortable in my own body. I’m never quite sure what to do with it, how to carry myself. I never know what do with my hands unless they’re in my pockets. I’m also not brilliant at small talk (unless, I’ve a few drinks in me), I’m the type of person who after a few minutes of meeting someone new is staring at them blankly, having no clue what to say next. So you may be asking yourself why did this socially awkward person think it was a good idea to try and become a roaming fundraiser? Well, I happened to be a big believer in jumping in at the deep end or learning by doing, if you will. Simply put, I took the job because I thought it would make me better at people, better at communicating face to face. Yet here’s the thing, it wasn’t the talking to people let me down. That actually went quite well.
I also happened to be incredible bored with my life, I was stuck in a rut and a job I found mind numbingly pointless. Fundraising seeming like a pretty good way to get out of it and you know what? It was.
Oh, and lets not forget the most important reason of all. I wanted to do something good, something meaningful with my life. This may sound a bit arrogant or self indulgent, but I absolutely refuse to live a life of mediocrity. I want to be good at something and want to be recognised as being good at it. I want to change the world. I want to make it a better place.
The “Background” Part of the Story
Before I go any further with this story lets give a bit of background information to the job and lend a bit of context.
- I was raising for a very well known charity
- For a very well known illness.
- I was with a team of three other fundraisers of varying experience.
- You are only allowed two people on the stand at any one time.
- The stand is what it sounds like, it has the charity branding on it and you stand at it.
- Everyone has targets to meet. You have to get so many sign ups in a week.
- Sign ups meaning agreeing to monthly direct debit.
- It costs money to keep a team in the field.
The “Meet the Team” Part of the Story***
Everyone I met while fundraising was lost; they were people adrift in life. People who had spent their lives moving from one job or one place to the next for the most of their lives. Two of the guys had been in the army and two had lived in Spain for a while, one had worked in movies and one had started their own IT business. Their lives were spent moving from on place to the other. They all had good reason for wanting to fundraise and they were all good people.
The “How it Went Down” Part of the Story
Good fundraisers know what they are doing, they know how to get you to stop, they know the correct body language and they are masters at playing on your emotion to get you to sign up. If these guys ever decided to use their gifts for evil, we’re all fucked. The way it worked with the team I was with, was that you were on the stand for forty-minute rotations, two at a time as you are only allowed to have two people working the stand at the same time. I actually think this system worked quite well it made your day go pretty quickly. The few days I did fundraise we were stationed at a shopping centre in England, and for that week anyway it turns out it was quite a difficult site to work. Normally after your probation period you are expected to get at least five sign ups a day, as a new start I only had to get three. The first two days I didn’t get any, but was allowed a grace period as the whole team was struggling and the team leader who normally gets between six and seven a day also got zero. However on the evening of the second day the team leader took me aside and said that the big boss had just phoned him and said he was concerned with my numbers, the next day I would have to get the three sign ups or I’d be going home. I didn’t let this get me down, I keep my spirits up and went in to the next day with enthusiasm.
However, it got to 4 o’clock that day and I still hadn’t had any sign ups. So when it was my time to come off the stand I told the team leader that I wouldn’t be going back on. That I knew I wasn’t going to get the sign ups, and time when I’m on the stand is time when someone else someone who could get the sign up isn’t. To his credit he tried to convince me to keep going, until I said to him “you know I’m right, you’re just too polite to say so” and he like “yeah…” That folks is the story of how I stopped being a fundraiser.
The “Why I Wasn’t Good at it” Part of the Story”
I was getting people to stop at the stand, I was chatting with them about all the good work the charity was doing, but when people hear about all the good stuff they don’t want to donate, that why you have to play on their emotions, guilt them it to it. Turns out this was something I could bring myself to do. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. In fact because I couldn’t, I’m confident I cost the charity sign ups.
The “What I Learnt” Part of the Story
The truth is that fundraising is an incredibly difficult job, but it shouldn’t be. People should be lining up to donate. The charity I was fundraising for actually save lives every single day and work hard to save more. That’s why the majority of people don’t stop and that’s why guilting people into signing up works so well, it’s because you know they’re right. You know you should be helping, that’s why most people ignore fundraisers in the street, not because they don’t care, but because they know that if we stop they are going to tell us all the reason why we should sign up and we will, because they’re right. For some reason the majority of us find it easier to shrug it off, we prefer not to think about it. We prefer to let someone else deal with the problem.
So next time you see those guys standing on the street or in a shopping centre or wherever and they’re raising for a charity you believe in, just stop and listen to what they have to say, and if you don’t think they’re right, don’t sign up, but if you do and you can afford it, well then… Go save a life.
The Where all the “*” Live Part of the Story
*For some reason when writing this I’m imagining it as that scene from Oceans Eleven when George Clooney explains the overly elaborate plan for robbing the casino. So please try and have suitably jazzy heist music playing in your head while reading. Or, if you happen to own suitable jazzy heist music from all those bank robberies you secretly plan then all the better!
**I said as male, because when as Keira I feel more out going and confidant. I can feel parts of my personality change when I get to be her, which is an altogether strange yet nice experience when you let yourself embrace it. It’s like this part of me melts to comfy girly me.
***Turns out I’m keeping with Ocean Eleven motif.